I had the opportunity to conduct a research study with electromyography under the guidance of Dr. Tseh and Dr. Heijnen. We had just received the equipment with the arrival of Dr. Heijnen to the school so this was the first study conducted with it. I undertook the process of submitting a research proposal to the institutional review board, getting approval, and conducting a study where I had thirty participants over sessions taking about forty-five hours to complete. I studied the surface electrical activity of muscles during exercise to fatigue at two different loads and analyzed the signals generated. I was able to find a significant relationship between EMG amplitude and repetitions completed showing that EMG amplitude increases with exercise to fatigue. I really enjoyed this experience because prior to conducting the study I had no experience working with EMG signals and no idea of how to analyze and interpret an EMG record.
I became very interested in the effects of exercise to fatigue at the end of 2016. I had begun experimenting with changes in my own training protocol to assess the responses my body had during repeated bouts of exercise to fatigue. I undertook exhaustive exercise bouts of squats to failure with two minute rest periods for twenty-five minutes at a time. During this experimentation, I was utilizing lighter loads in order to be able to continue performing repetitions. I became curious about the effects of a load as determined as a percentage of the total weight you can lift for one repetition. As I began to examine the literature and the current guidance provided by the governing bodies of exercise science, I came across a review article that called into question the position of these major organizations. Being a bit of a rebel myself, I examined the rest of the literature this individual had put out and encountered many challenges to the prevailing resistance training paradigm. The study I conducted was an attempt to examine the ideas that individual presented and to put the prevailing paradigm to the test to see if it would hold up under scientific examination.
I learned so much from this experience that I feel as if I am still processing it. The greatest challenge for me was in analyzing a variable that I had known nothing about. I learned that the scientific literature often does not illustrate a clear understanding of the phenomena that occur. I learned of the raging debates within my field of exercise science. I found out that reporting, standardization, and the rigor of the studies that were published were often put to the test by their peers and found inadequate. I learned that one should never rely on a review or the thoughts of another to draw conclusions without first examining the source material to see if one reaches the same conclusions. I found that the analysis of data sounds simple when presented, but is far more tedious and time-consuming than I could have imagined. I found that with all this, there is an exhilaration with having results that mean something even if those results simply confirm the findings that other researchers have found.
Conducting a scientific study such as the one I did is what is expected of a graduate student in the field. This study has allowed me to examine and experience what the life of a researcher in my field is like and to engage with current debates in my field. I think this opportunity far and away sets me apart from my peers.